Albania remains the mysterious part of my trip along the Eurovelo 8 from Greece to Portugal and I am fascinated by the stories of those who have cycled through the country. I met a chap called Gav McDonald recently at the London Bike Show. On his company website Rather Be Cycling he is described as follows;
“Gav McDonald ….. would rather be descending a mountain pass amidst spectacular scenery. Gav has been bike daft since his early childhood and is passionate about all aspects of cycling. A professional cycle guide he has led adventure biking trips all over the globe, cycle toured extensively on five continents, has won 4 Scottish cycling championships and rode around the world in 2005/06. An experienced commercial bike mechanic, he still competes in Master’s Races although, by now, he really should know better. His favourite bike is “any one with two wheels”. Rather Be Cycling reflects Gav’s enthusiasm for all things related to bikes, cycling and adventure travel.”
So he knows his stuff when it comes to cycle touring. We chatted at length about his experiences in Albania (he was on his World tour at the time) & he later emailed the following;
“My funniest Albania moment was the Bush Whacker ….. whilst riding along in the early evening looking for a spot to pitch the tent I spotted a perfect idyllic spot. Apart from one flaw – a shepherd lad, pants around his ankles furiously engaged in what can only be described as an act of sexual gratification with a shrub …… a bush whacker if you like. Seeing his obvious excitement at the local flora and fauna I reckoned that discretion was the better part of valour and declined to see how he would greet my bright red tent …… I also had no desire to test it’s liquid proofing either. Happy to say I found a cracking (and bush whacker free) spot a few miles down the road and my tent remained unmolested.
There was a stark unspoilt beauty along the Coast in places which, combined with friendly and hospitable people, made for great cycling. The Southern Coast was also for the most part deserted.
I’d love to go back to Albania and explore more. I called into the British Embassy in Tirana as well when I was there. Just to say hello I’m passing through. I was ushered very promptly into a lovely clean room and served up some tea and biscuits. A very harassed looking chap soon appears and says “robbed, lost your passport, no money, which is it”. When I explained I was just passing through and wished to say hello he thawed and smiled and we had a lovely little chat. Apparently nobody pops in for the pleasant things only the hassley ones. Always remembers that.”
Gav also sent some pictures from his travels through Albania in 2005: